Tiana: In a rhythm

February 23, 2010

T-minus three weeks left of class…and counting. WHAT?!

This weekend has been a sort of surreal transitional period.  I feel like I’ve been here for months, but also like I just got here.  I finally feel at ease and in-step with the pace and practice of Senegalese society and with my family.  I’m becoming more and more able to communicate in both French and Wolof.  And what’s more, I’m just starting to realize that I have three weeks left with my family before I pack my bags, spend a week in Saint Louis and in the desert for spring break, and head on to Joal to work at the pediatric center and integrate into a new family.  So, to recap, life has somehow sped by in slow fashion.  Are you with me?

Friday, most of us spent the morning and early afternoon at WARC for our Wolof class, then we just hung out and did absolutely nothing.  A few people were finishing their papers for Country Analysis, some were befriending the Senegalese students who study there, others were planning the schedule for the weekend and for spring break, and me, well, I sat in the sunshine and played solitaire on my computer for about two hours.

Later that evening, the majority of our MSID group along with some CIEE students met at New Africa, a restaurant in the Sacré Coeur 3 neighborhood, which was putting on a salsa dance party.  Very à la Loring Pasta Bar, if I do say so myself.  All of you University of Minnesota folk know what I’m talking about.  It was so much fun!  The ambiance of the place made me feel like I was in the middle of the movie Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights.  Cool, upbeat music, open-air, tropical setting, incredible salsa dancers (including the U of M’s very own Kaela McConnon!), pool, and an ice cold Coca-Cola.  We relaxed and chatted for a couple of hours, and then us non-salsa-ers got up and danced a bit towards the end of the evening when the less salsa-y music came on.  Surprisingly (and thankfully!), creepers were few and far between that evening, and everyone seemed to have a great time!  I taxied home with Devyn and Brenna at about two a.m.

Aminata, Xadi, and Doudou standing outside my bedroom.

We started by trying to hail a taxi.  Aby negotiated the price which, unfortunately, was upped because of my presence, as I am undoubtedly a toubab.  The taxi ride was long, and I was relieved to finally get to the market, called HLM.  The market is huge! And was incredibly busy!  At first, I experienced some intense sensory overload.  Cars and taxis everywhere.  Colors everywhere.  Hundreds and hundreds of people hustling and bustling through the narrow walkways between packed stalls and vendors selling jewelry, shoes, bags, clothes, fabrics, books, food, sunglasses.  A little scuffle breaking out between a vendor and a buyer.  Vendors coming right up to your face and staying there, trying to sell you their product.  I cannot explain how grateful I felt to be there with two Senegalese women who knew how everything worked.  Otherwise, I think I would have lost myself, both in terms of location and in terms of sanity!

Magat knew just where to bring me for fabric to make a traditional taille basse, as she works at the market and is well acquainted with it.  We went to two different places, and her and Aby helped me decide on a deep, midnight blue, shiny wax fabric with golden, radiating starbursts on it.  After buying six meters and spending four thousand CFA (such a good deal!), we headed to the area of the market where the tailors congregate.  Enter another moment of sensory overload: a one-level, concrete edifice with open air above, aisle after aisle of stalls, maybe six feet wide by eight feet deep, holding up to six tailors, each working on some intricate clothing or beading or threading design, hundreds of sewing machines thump-thump-thumping in rapid succession, fabric and plastic scattered on the ground, you get the picture.  We approached one stall and I was introduced to Xadim, another one of Magat’s friends who works as a tailor and would be making my taille basse.  He took my measurements while him and a couple of his friends tested my Wolof, and then Magat, Aby and I headed to another stall to meet with another man who specializes in more intricate threadwork.  Aby is having an incredible thread design embroidered onto a new tunic, so she negotiated with this man while Magat and I looked through magazines for a specific design for my outfit.  We ate crème glacé, or frozen cream (not ice cream, mind you) and I decided on a pattern.  After sitting and chatting a bit more, we went back to Xadim to show him the layout, I paid half of the price of his service in advance, and Magat is going back on Monday to pick up the finished product.  Thanks to Magat, I’m getting a significant discount!  In sum, I’m spending about twenty dollars on this outfit, and I am so excited to see how it turns out!

I taxied home from the market by myself and got a tour of a part of Dakar that I hadn’t seen before, which was really great.  In awe of how amazing of a time I am having here, I took the duration of the taxi ride to thank the Lord again for this opportunity.

After arriving home, I spent the afternoon with the nieces and nephew and some of the neighbor children.  We ate baignets (YUM!), said hello to people who passed on the street, and held a casual photo shoot.  I flashed back to my first few days here, when the kids were too shy to approach me or jump on me or come up and say hello, and I see how far we’ve all come since that short time ago.  I love it here.

Saturday evening, the United States Embassy sponsored a performance by the dance group Evidence at the National Theater downtown in honor of Black History Month.  Before the show, I went with several other students to La Brioche Dorée just next to the theater and ate a delicious club sandwich and pain au chocolat, washing it all down with my first Diet Coke since I left the States!  I love Diet Coke, so the evening definitely started off on the right note.

The performance was really neat!  I’m talking great music, great dancing, and great company.  It couldn’t have been better!  Right afterwards, I taxied home, exhausted, with Britney and two other girls from a different program.  We negotiated a good price and headed back to Mermoz.

Nerves raw and eyelids drooping, we got out of the taxi at Deuxième Porte, my street, and began the short walk home.  I began digging in my purse in search of my phone to check the time.  My phone was not in my purse! Nor was it in my pocket or my hand.  I started to panic a little and asked Britney to call it in case I just couldn’t see it in my purse because it was so dark out.  Nothing. Shoot!  I left it in the cab.  I was so bummed, but dropped the issue, realizing I couldn’t do anything about it, as taxis in this city are about as abundant as squirrels on the U of M campus – They are everywhere!  We started walking home again when we heard a vigorous honking noise behind us.  You guys, the taxi driver had turned around and brought my phone back to me!  This might not sound like a big deal, but seriously! He did not have to be that considerate!  I was so inexplicably overjoyed and overwhelmed, and gave a gigantic thank you.  Then I headed home for good.

Despite my physical and psychological fatigue, I spent the next two hours chatting with my cousin Matar and a family friend, Basire. We watched some TV and chatted about nothing and everything before I finally retired for the evening.

Today, Sunday, was very simple.  Woke up late, ate breakfast (YUM!) with Maman, finished my Wolof homework, ate lunch (YUM!) with the family, made ataaya (YUM!) with Matar and watched some soccer, went upstairs to watch the sunset from the roof and see the new baby mouton, ate supper (YUM!) and, to end the day, I went upstairs again to star-gaze a bit.  It’s been a wonderful weekend.

I can’t explain it.  I feel like I’m a part of this family.  I feel more than ever that I want to pursue a career in global pediatrics.  I feel like each and every day that I spend here is normal life for me now.  And every time I think about leaving, I feel really, really sad.  So much is changing.  There is so much to process, and so little time.  I guess all I can do for now is seize each moment that I’m given and continue to learn as much as possible — which I am more than happy to do!

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